Bend vs. Break

  Bend, don’t break. 
  Originally uploaded by HKCB.

When does a customer service process stop serving the customer, and begin to become detrimental to the relationship?  David Cushman tells us:

"My payment for my credit card bill had, apparently arrived a day late. I pay the bill with online banking from an account with another bank. I had set up the instruction to give it the requisite four days to travel through the banking system (and will someone, somewhere please explain to me why that’s still necessary when all that’s being transferred is a notional value carried in digital form?).

A Bank Holiday screwed up the calculation. The punishment for my crime was to be charged a £12 ‘late fee’.

I called to object, pointing out I’ve been a model customer for them for many long years and had made every effort to pay on time on this occasion.

No joy. The poor employee – reading out the script – is clearly told they must stick to the line no matter what the logic of the argument they are met with, no matter what the quality of the customer.

It’s their customer policy not to refund late fees.

Let me tell you. it’s not a customer policy at all. I asked how much my late payment had actually cost. Couldn’t answer. I guessed in the region of a couple of quid. And for this, you are willing to end your relationship with a model customer? How much more is it going to cost you to recruit the next one? Staggering!"

Staggering, indeed.  Remember the levels of interaction that occur as a customer relationship progresses:

Transaction => Conversation => Relationship => Community

If a vendor chooses to only concentrate (and remain!) at the Transaction level, that vendor is guaranteed to eventually become a commodity, lose its competitive differentiation and eventually be supplanted.  A customer service strategy that rigidly holds internal process over serving the customer’s needs is destined to fail.

One Reply to “Bend vs. Break”

  1. I have to say that this point relates to one of the services my company provides. It annoys the hell out of me when things like this happens. “Out of band authentication” means that when a transaction is risk-flagged you get a call and are invited to confirm your identity and the fact that you are, in fact, making a transaction. You can stick in a PIN request etc. The same process is applicable for “overdraft” and credit related notifications. When a customer hits a certain level near their overdraft or credit limit, Pro-actively tell them so. If you are close to getting this dreaded late payment fee, again, call the customer and tell them and give them the opportunity to interact with a customer service rep. This late fee issue is always going to make a customer feel unhappy, and it serves no purpose other than to encourage the customer to pay on time. Likewise there is no reason for people to not let their customers/suppliers know that deliveries are running behind schedule. A simple sms would even suffice.

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